How do you recognise the signs of stalking?
Up until a few years ago, there wasn’t even a law that defined the signs of stalking and prevented someone from this uncomfortable experience. Stalking was not a criminal act. Victims could only pursue their stalkers under harassment laws, which were woefully inadequate. Since 2012, new laws were passed to stop stalkers. As recent as last December, new legislation now protects victims of stalking before a suspect has even been arrested.
So why has it taken so long for the law to catch up with stalking? One reason could be that it is difficult to pinpoint the signs of stalking. The line between unwanted attention and a criminal act can be extremely fragile.
So why do some people resort to stalking?
One study identified 5 types of stalkers:
- Pursues a former partner
- Wants a reconciliation
- Or desires revenge
- Has a criminal history of assault
These are the most dangerous type. They have had a relationship with the victim and often seek revenge.
- Wants a relationship with their ‘true love’
- Takes no notice of the victim’s feelings
- Erotomania delusions
- Endows victim with grand qualities
These types often live in a fantasy world of their own making and are not dangerous per se. They believe they are in love and it is unrequited.
- Knows the victim is not interested
- Wants their behaviour to lead to a relationship
- Low IQ, socially awkward
- Does not endow victim with grand qualities
These types often make crude attempts at romantic gestures and know they probably won’t get anywhere.
- Feels persecuted, wants retribution
- Wants to frighten and upset the victim
- Has a particular grievance
- Paranoid delusions
Resentful stalkers typically suffer from some sort of mental illness and can often end up in psychiatric care.
- Stalks and studies victim
- Prepares in advance for attack
- Prior sexual attacks
- No warnings before attacks
Another dangerous offender, these stalkers are violent and need medical help to control their feelings and violent actions.
Stalkers appear to share certain characteristics:
They have obsessive personalities
The stalker will have obsessive traits and fixate on their subject. Their every waking moment will focus on their victim. You might find an area dedicated to the subject of their affection, such as a shrine or scrapbook. Their over-riding thoughts are concerned with pursuing their victim.
They have delusional thoughts
Stalkers will see signs in everyday events. My stalker, for instance, took me to his desk and asked me, in all seriousness, if I had left an elastic band on his desk as a sign. Where it had fallen it looked like a heart shape. Wear a red scarf and it is a sign, hold a newspaper, another sign.
Stalkers don’t take no for an answer
Stalkers cannot believe their victims are not interested in them. Any rejections are signs of love and commitment.
In fact, the more a victim protests, the more they believe it is a covert sign. They may also think that with a little more patience their victim will come to love them.
They have above average intelligence
In order to pursue their victims unnoticed for such long periods, stalkers have to have above average intelligence. They are adept at obtaining information about their victims and will use covert methods to get close to them. They will also use their intelligence to throw others off their trail.
They suffer from low self-esteem
Stalkers often tie their self-worth with the person they are pursuing. Typical loners, they long for a relationship that delivers a sense of worth. Associating with a special person raises the stalker’s profile and they see themselves in the same circle as their victim.
Now we know about the types of stalkers, here are 7 non-obvious signs of stalking:
The Good Samaritan
Is someone at work being extra helpful recently? Beware of the Good Samaritan, the person who is always around to help with that flat tyre or a lost word document. This heplful person has probably damaged your property in the first place to get close to you.
Has someone filed a legal suit against you in the last few months? Stalking isn’t always a person being overly nice by sending bouquets of flowers or cards. The whole purpose of a stalker is to get access to you. And filing a lawsuit means spending time with you.
Knight in Shining Armour
Have you had a string of really bad luck? Your cat died? Was your dog run over? Your best friend suddenly won’t talk to you anymore? And now this once stranger is your rock, your knight in shining armour? Consider that this knight might be behind all your misfortunes.
You know when you just keep bumping into someone and at the beginning, it is a huge joke? When it starts to happen all the time, every day it is not funny. It is not natural or normal behaviour for someone to keep running into the same person all the time.
If someone gives you a gift that you don’t feel happy with, give it straight back. Inappropriate gifts can be one of those signs of stalking we don’t notice until it’s too late.
Asking questions about your online activity
If someone you have just met starts asking you about times you logged on or off then this should set off alarm bells. What business is it of theirs when you access social media?
Offering to look after your children
A person you are barely acquainted with wants to look after your children? I think not! This was the mistake I made with my stalker, letting him into my house too early with a big responsibility. I made him feel as if he was an important part of my life. When in fact, I just wanted someone to feed the cats.
What to do if you think you are a victim of stalking?
The police advice is to follow four Golden Rules:
Have no contact with the stalker
Once the stalker has been told in a firm but polite manner that their attention is unwanted, there should be no further contact. The stalker will see any kind of contact as positive and deem it as encouragement.
Tell other people
People that experience stalking may be reluctant to tell others what is going on. It is important to let friends and family know. This is because they can provide evidence in court and not unwittingly give details to the stalker.
Collect evidence about the stalking
It is essential to provide proof of your stalking so keep a journal. Take photographs or video the stalker. Save texts, emails, if you get deliveries call the company to find out who ordered it.
Not everyone can see the signs of stalking or they might not believe you, so make sure you can prove it.
Make sure you are safe
Change the locks on your house, change your routine, only give out personal information to those your trust. Install sensors and alarms and get a home security check.
Do you have experience of stalking? Can you share any non-obvious signs of stalking we might have missed?